Bill King (Billectric) came up with an interesting writing challenge for the people of LitKicks, inspired by the example of the late William S. Burroughs. “Cut-ups may not be for everybody, but if nothing else, they can help overcome writer’s block,” Bill writes.
The basic method is to pick a significant text — a newspaper article, a favorite book, a letter privately written from a friend — and use any variety of methods to incorporate randomly chosen phrases or sentences from the text into a new work. You can cut up a single text, or you can stream different texts into a single output.
“I pick out five very different kinds of books,” Bill King tells us of his own cut-up methodology.
“Each choice may have some vague connection with an idea I want to convey. Sometimes I pick out books at random with no thought of connectivity at all. Even though I use words from these books, I can add my own words, delete as many words as I want, use different forms of the same word, like adding -ing, -ed, singular to plural. Anything goes!”
Bill goes on to describe an intricate method of selection involving a pair of dice and an online cut-up generator. In fact, cut-ups do not even require dice or heavy machinery. All you need are some interesting texts and your own imagination. We’d like to invite you to cut something up and post the results here. If you’d like, you can tell us about your original texts and how you worked.
William S. Burroughs is the writer most associated with the “cut-up” method, but in fact previous masters like James Joyce (“Ulysses”) and T. S. Eliot (“The Waste-Land”) incorporated splices of seemingly random texts into their best works. Let’s see what you come up with.